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In This Life

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JACK and JENNIFER are spread out on the couch, surrounded by stacks of notes and papers and several half-empty boxes of Chinese food takeout. JACK has his sleeves rolled up and is deep in concentration over something on his laptop, while JENNIFER is leaning in close reading along, editing what is on the screen. Both have been so engrossed in what they have been doing that neither has noticed just how closely they have been sitting. It's clear they are both in a comfort zone.

JENNIFER: (pointing to the screen) That word is spelled wrong.

JACK tries to adjust his head to see then finally swats her hand away.

JENNIFER: Right there, (she points again) see it?

JACK: (pulling a face) Jennifer, we're talking about the miracle of spell check. I've run it three times already--this document is error free, I assure you.

JENNIFER: Well technically it's spelled correctly so the spell check wouldn't catch it. But you have 'their' when you should have 'there.'

JACK: Where?

JENNIFER: (exasperated) Right there!

JACK: Oh. (embarrassed laugh) Well, I... (clears throat) I guess I did use the wrong word there, didn't I?

JENNIFER: (grinning) Yeah, I guess you did.

She leans in even closer without realizing it, and JACK does not pull away either. It's obvious that both of them are enjoying the closeness.

JACK: (his breath is a little uneven) So... uh... what about the rest... of the piece?

JENNIFER: (without taking her eyes off him) It's perfect... Just perfect...

Their faces are practically touching now. JACK suddenly realizes what's about to happen and pulls back.

JACK: (clears throat) Uh, perhaps I should run a grammar check too-

JENNIFER: (disappointed that he's backed off again) Why did you do that?

JACK: (feigning ignorance) Well if spell check isn't going to catch these kind of errors-

JENNIFER: No Jack, I meant pull away. (softly) Why did you pull away like that?

JACK is still looking at the laptop. JENNIFER takes his chin in her hand and gently pulls it towards her so he is looking at her.

JENNIFER: Why are you so afraid of this?

JACK can not answer her.



JACK and JENNIFER had just gotten close while working, but JACK became uncomfortable and pulled away.

JENNIFER: Jack, you didn't answer me. Why are you so afraid of this?

JACK: (laughs nervously) Afraid of what? (gently removes her hand from his face) I just want to get this last section done tonight.

JENNIFER sighs in frustration. On the one hand, she knows that he is going through a lot right now and if she pushes him too far, she will push him away completely, but on the other hand, she wishes he could let her in during this very tough time.

JACK: (feeling guilty that he has to hurt her this way) Look, Jennifer-

ABBY has come down the stairs and walks into the living room. She is dressed in yellow pajamas and is barefoot.

ABBY: Mommy? Daddy?

JENNIFER: (surprised to see ABBY is awake this late) Baby, what are you doing up?

ABBY: (rubbing her eyes, makes her way through the obstacle course to stand by them) I had a bad dream and I couldn't get back to sleep... I heard voices down here, so I came downstairs.

JACK picks her up and places her on his lap. JENNIFER notices how even this simple act seemed to wipe him out and she tries not to wince.

JACK: Well, my brave little miss, why don't you tell us all about your nightmare and then you won't be so scared--then you can get back to sleep...

ABBY: Do I have to go back to sleep?

JACK: As I recall, young lady, we've had this schedule well established since the day we brought you home from the hospital. We wouldn't want to change all of that now out of the blue, would we?

ABBY: (giggling) Can't I stay up with you and Mommy for just a little bit longer? (leans in and gives him a puppy dog look) Please?

JACK starts to protest, then looks to JENNIFER for help, but she is too busy trying to keep from laughing. Finally he gives up and laughs too.



JACK comes down the stairs after having taken ABBY, who had fallen asleep not too long after she came down, back to her room.

JENNIFER: (softly so ABBY will not wake up again) Well?

JACK: The fair maiden sleeps once again. (comes to the couch and picks up an empty mug from the coffee table) Warm milk does the trick every time. (picks up the laptop and begins to work again, while JENNIFER watches him) All right, where were we... Ah yes, I was about to run the grammar check- (notices JENNIFER is looking at him, clears his throat) Is... is something wrong?

JENNIFER: No, nothing's wrong...

JACK: Oh... good... (goes back to working, but sees she is still looking at him, looks back up at her)

JENNIFER: You're really great with her, you know that?

JACK: (embarrassed) Well, I...

JENNIFER: I mean it, Jack. You're a wonderful father.

JACK: (genuinely moved by her words) Thank you, Jennifer. That... means a lot, considering...

JENNIFER: Considering what?

JACK: (lets out a small laugh) Let's face it, I have not exactly been father-of-the-year material up till now.

JENNIFER: What are you talking about? You've been great from day one--from that moment you delivered her, Jack.

JACK: (quietly) If that were the case you would have never entertained the thought of keeping sole custody of her.

JENNIFER feels very guilty.


JACK: No, it's all right. You don't have to explain. (sad smile) I know what I've done. I know I can't take some of those things back no matter what happens from here on out. I can never get back those months--all those months I was out of her life...

JENNIFER: (softly) Jack, don't do that. We've spent enough years looking back at the past, giving into regret. (she touches his chin and lifts it so he is looking in her eyes) Don't you think it's time we stopped doing that?

JACK: I... don't know if I can...

JENNIFER: Why not? Why not, Jack?

JACK: Because it's all I've got, Jennifer. Because I don't know how much of a future I have left...

OUT on JENNIFER'S pain as she looks at JACK'S anguish.



JACK has just admitted to JENNIFER that he wonders how much of a future he still has.

JACK: (somberly) You know, people ask me if I'm afraid of dying. Or if I'm afraid of the chemotherapy... (looks at her) But the truth is, I'm not afraid of any of that. What I'm afraid of... is not living long enough to see my daughter in her first dance recital. Or seeing her skate on the frozen pond at Christmas. Or seeing her graduate from high school. (voice grows very quiet) Or walking her down the aisle... (lets out a laugh) Of course I'm still retaining all veto rights to her choice of husband...

JENNIFER laughs in spite of herself, watches him with great pain, wishing she could take this away from him.

JENNIFER: Jack, I wish I could tell you things will be perfect in the end, but I... I can't do that...

JACK: (touched that she is trying, smiles) I know you do. (returns his attention to the laptop, clears throat) Well, what do you say I run this final grammar check so we can put this chapter behind us?


The phone rings, surprising both of them.

JENNIFER: I'll get it. (picks up phone) Hello? (beat) Hi! No, no, it's not too late, don't worry... (looks back at JACK, who is looking in curiosity) Um... can you hold on for a second? (to JACK) Why don't I go take this in the kitchen--I won't be too long. That way you can run that grammar check, okay?

JACK: Uh... sure...

JENNIFER smiles and gets up to walk to the kitchen while JACK watches her from the corner of his eye.

JENNIFER: (voice is muffled now that she is in the kitchen) Hi, sorry about that. I'm glad you called... No, I promise, you didn't wake me up. Jack and I were just working on something. Yeah, we're working on a project together. (beat) Oh you can? That's wonderful!! That's perfect...

JACK, who has been listening, strains to hear the next few words now that JENNIFER has lowered her voice even more.

JENNIFER: Oh I'm so glad... All right, so it's all set! Good. (beat) Thank you. Okay, bye...

JENNIFER walks back into the living room. JACK quickly goes back to typing, trying to pretend he wasn't listening.

JACK: (casually) Who was that calling so late?

JENNIFER: (as nonchalantly as she can) Oh, it was... Mike...

JACK knows she is lying.

JACK: Mike?

JENNIFER: Mmm hmm... He's in Israel, remember? Visiting Jeremy? Anyway, he wanted to call to let me know that he's sending something special for Grandma for Thanksgiving...

JACK: (wonders what she is hiding, but decides to pursue it in the morning) Well, I think I'll call it a night.

JENNIFER: Oh ok... So I guess we'll... get back to this tomorrow?

JACK: (smiles and nods) Yeah. Yeah, we will.

JENNIFER watches him go upstairs.

JENNIFER: (to herself) I may not be able to take this away from you, Jack, but I can at least make your Thanksgiving a little bit brighter.

OUT on Jennifer's smile.

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